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My Dog Swallowed a Golf Ball: Here’s What to Do! Vet Answers

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By Dr. Samantha Devine

Golf ball on tee

Vet approved

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Written by

Dr. Samantha Devine

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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You’ve been outside practicing your golf swing and realize one of your golf balls is missing. Your friendly Labrador has been running around the yard, but it doesn’t seem like anything is wrong. Later that night, your dog is pacing, restless, and uninterested in their food.

Do you wonder if your dog might have swallowed a golf ball? If so, this is an emergency and you should call a vet. Read on to learn more.

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What to Do If Your Dog Swallows a Golf Ball

Contact your veterinary hospital immediately if your dog has swallowed a golf ball. If it’s after hours or your veterinary team recommends an emergency hospital, take your pet there. This situation requires urgency.

If your dog is actively choking, you may need to intervene. Be incredibly careful so that you do not get bitten. According to Jacksonville Community Pet Clinics, there are several steps you can take to help a choking dog:

How to Help a Choking Dog
  • Restrain your dog so you can help them safely. You may need a second person.
  • Start by checking your dog’s mouth. Remove the object with a tool like tongs. If you can do it safely, do a finger sweep of your dog’s mouth. Do not push it further into your dog’s mouth or throat.
  • You can perform a Heimlich maneuver on dogs. Position the dog on their back or side. Push up and into the hollow at the bottom of the rib cage to apply force to dislodge the golf ball.
  • Regardless of if you cannot get the item out, get your dog to a veterinary hospital immediately. The dog needs help and a thorough exam.1

Signs of Obstruction From a Golf Ball

vet examining a border collie dog
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

Golf balls are dangerous because they can get lodged anywhere within the gastrointestinal tract. They aren’t digestible, so they’ll sit there, likely causing a life-threatening obstruction.

Depending on where the obstructing item is located, you may see different signs of an obstruction. A golf ball could get stuck in your dog’s throat, so you might see choking or a position where your dog stretches their neck out.

Other signs of an obstruction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling, a sign of nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Straining to defecate
  • No bowel movements
  • Inappetence
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Painful abdomen
  • Distended or bloated abdomen
  • Restless behavior
  • Downward dog position to relieve abdominal discomfort

Diagnosing an Obstruction in Dogs

Your veterinarian will need to perform a physical exam to diagnose an obstruction. While they do that, they’ll likely ask questions, such as:

  • Is there any chance your dog could have eaten something?
  • Does your dog get into the trash?

Your veterinarian might feel a thickened or rounded object in your dog’s intestines, particularly if they’re more petite or lean, but you can’t rely just on that. With gastrointestinal signs, your veterinarian may want to run blood work, but they’ll also likely recommend taking X-rays.

Based on their density, golf balls can show up on X-rays, as evidenced by a case featured in Veterinary Practice News. They’ll show up as a radiopaque round object.

sick border collie dog at the vet clinic
Image Credit: antoniodiaz, Shutterstock

Treatment If Your Dog Eats a Golf Ball

If your dog has just eaten a golf ball, your veterinarian may try to get them to throw up the object. They’ll generally administer a medication or solution to get them to vomit.

If your dog doesn’t vomit up the golf ball, your veterinarian might try to retrieve the ball with an endoscope. This tool is a long, flexible camera that has different attachments to take biopsies or take objects out of the stomach.

Golf balls can be tricky to nab, so exploratory surgery is the other option. Under anesthesia, a veterinary surgeon will open the stomach and or portions of the intestines to remove foreign objects. The advantage of this procedure is that your vet can also remove sections of the intestines if they have become damaged from a long-standing obstruction.

Preventing Your Dog From Swallowing a Golf Ball

If your dog likes to put things in their mouth, you’ll want to watch them closely when they’re outside. If you practice your golf swing in the yard, account for each ball. Don’t let your dog chase balls as you hit them.

If you live near a golf course or have a neighbor who putts, you’ll want to keep your dog on a leash while walking. Teach your dog the “leave it” command or walk them with a muzzle to keep them safe.

Ensure you tell your vet if there’s the slightest chance of your dog eating something like a golf ball.

vet checking dog teeth
Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are golf balls poisonous?

Golf balls can have a liquid core that contains caustic compounds, although these are less common nowadays than they used to be. These chemicals are usually alkali and can cause damage to your dog’s mouth and gut if your dog chews a golf ball and pierces the outer covering.

Some chemicals used in producing golf balls are dangerous to your pet’s health. For instance, ingested zinc can lead to red blood cell hemolysis or destruction.

Are there other dangers for a dog from golf balls?

Golf balls can pose several hazards for dogs, so you should keep your furry friend away from them. They’re small enough to be an easy choking hazard and can cause life-threatening stomach or intestinal obstructions.

Golf balls can cause issues in other ways, including:

  • They are hard, which can break your dog’s teeth if they chew on them.
  • Pieces of golf balls that break off can be abrasive to your dog’s mouth, esophagus, and intestines. They can also pierce the gut.
  • If your dog gets hit with a golf ball, it can cause traumatic injuries, especially to soft structures like the eyes.
Golf balls
Image Credit: Zaiachin,Shutterstock

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If your dog swallows a golf ball, you need to have them seen immediately by your veterinarian or an emergency vet. The sooner your veterinarian can intervene, the less invasive the treatment may be.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Mr.Somchai Sukkasem,Shutterstock

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